Japan Win Pacific Nations Cup
SUVA, Fiji (Aug. 10) – Japan beat the United States 34-20 on Saturday at ANZ Stadium to ensure it was Michael Leitch that lifted the Pacific Nations Cup as the Brave Blossoms ended their campaign with three wins from three games.
Leitch crossed twice as Jamie Joseph’s side ran in four tries to pick up their first PNC title since 2014 when they shared it with Samoa and their first outright since 2011.
“I think it all came down to preparation. We’ve been together since February and all the hard work has paid off,” said Leitch, who opened the scoring following a driving maul in the fourth minute.
Kenki Fukuoka added a second following some great hands from the forwards and backs and with Yu Tamura adding two conversions and a penalty Japan led 17-0 with just 12 minutes on the clock.
However, the Eagles struck back with Madison Hughes going over before an exchange of penalties between Tamura and Will Hooley saw the teams turn around with Japan leading 20-13.
The second half saw Japan again dominate in terms of line breaks only for indiscipline to allow the United States to stay in the game.
Ryohei Yamanaka crossed the chalk in the 43rd minute following a good inside pass from Tamura before the fullback set up Japan’s final try – a cracker that started with Fukuoka and Yamanaka launching a counterattack in their own 22 before Yutaka Nagare and Shota Horie followed up and showed great awareness to allow Leitch to go over for his second five pointer of the day.
As in the first half, it was the Eagles who finished stronger though, with Hanco Germishuys adding their second try of the day.
“I think we still have room to improve in terms of indiscipline,” Leitch said. “The Americans are physically strong like (our World Cup opponents) Russia and Ireland. I think we will lose to them if we keep playing like we did today, so we need to improve that part of the game.”